THE SAME old dark navy Blues returned on Thursday night.
After an unbeaten fortnight had delivered a glimmer of hope, Carlton's first-half capitulation at the hands of a slick St Kilda outfit told an all-too-familiar tale at Marvel Stadium.
>> WATCH THE MATCH HIGHLIGHTS IN THE PLAYER ABOVE
As has often been the case in David Teague's 16 games in charge, the Blues rallied to kick three of the opening four goals of the third term and bridge the margin to 17 points.
SAINTS ON FIRE Full match coverage and stats
But that was as close as they got as the Saints cruised to the 11.7 (73) to 8.7 (55) win on the back of the inside grunt of Jack Steele, class of Jack Billings and courage and dare of half-back Ben Long.
The only sour note for the Saints was another hamstring setback, this time to the right side, to injury-plagued midfielder Dan Hannebery who sat out the final term.
Steele (23 disposals) had the better of Blues captain Patrick Cripps early in their head-to-head battle, while Max King (two goals) outreached much-improved Blues full-back Jacob Weitering to dominate the first quarter.
Returning Saints skipper Jarryn Geary booted two goals playing a forward tag on Blues co-captain Sam Docherty and even took one of the Saints' 12 marks inside 50 in the first half.
With Docherty offering little offensively in the early parts, turnovers in the defensive half cruelled the Blues and clogged up their ball movement with their co-captain restrained.
It meant key tall trio Harry McKay, Levi Casboult and Mitch McGovern failed to trouble the scorers on a tough night.
Former skipper Marc Murphy was put on report for striking Jake Carlisle late in the final term in an incident that could command a fine.
Skipper owns skipper
Jarryn Geary, forward. It might take some getting used to, but the Saints skipper again did the job playing his new defensive tagging role on Blues co-captain Sam Docherty. Just as he did in his last game before injury on Western Bulldog Jason Johannisen in round two, Geary started in attack and this time had instant success. He kicked two of the Saints' first four goals opposed to Docherty (20 disposals), who had a shadow of his impact from last week's 32-disposal performance against Essendon. It was just the second time in his career Geary had kicked multiple goals and first since 2016.
Midfield bulls go head-to-head
A podium finisher in St Kilda's last two best and fairests, Jack Steele got his primetime recognition on Thursday night with the match moved forward two days due to the fixture upheaval. The inside midfielder had 13 disposals to half-time to set up the Saints' win, holding Blues co-captain Patrick Cripps to just five in the process. Cripps bounced back after the main break to finish with 21 touches to Steele's 23 (plus a game-high nine tackles) but the damage had been done. While slick movers Bradley Hill and Jack Billings have been praised for much of the Saints' form this year, Steele continues to go to new heights and even recovered from wrist surgery on the eve of the season.
Dirty night for blues key talls
Praised for their synergy in the round three win over Geelong, Blues key forwards Harry McKay, Mitch McGovern and Levi Casboult offered little against the Saints. The trio failed to register a single scoring shot for the entire match and were victims of slow ball movement out of the defensive half. With Casboult and McGovern responsible for five of the Blues' seven goals in last week's win over Essendon, it might be time for David Teague to rethink his best forward set-up and whether the three talls can work as one.
CARLTON 1.1 2.4 5.6 8.7 (55)
ST KILDA 4.3 7.4 9.5 11.7 (73)
Carlton: Setterfield 2, Betts, Philp, Martin, Cripps, Gibbons, Newnes
St Kilda: Geary 2, King 2, Butler 2, Battle, Gresham, Billings, Membrey, Kent
Carlton: Martin, Setterfield, Curnow, Cripps
St Kilda: Steele, Long, Billings, Marshall, Coffield, Wilkie
Carlton: Fisher (gastro) replace in selected side by Philp
St Kilda: Hannebery (hamstring)